Stories about older women having IVF babies come and go on the front pages of the tabloids. Several 70-year-olds have given birth in India, news which is always greeted with a chorus of astonishment and dismay. How will the woman and her husband be able to care for the child, critics ask. An Australian woman who gave birth at 63 last week was called “selfish” by the head of the Australian Medical Association.
It’s even harder for single mothers. A Spanish woman, Carmela Bousada, held the world record in 2009 for giving birth to twins a week short of her 67th birthday. She told sceptics: “”My mum lived to be 101 and there’s no reason I couldn’t do the same.” Unhappily she died three years later of stomach cancer, leaving her sons orphans at 2½ years old.
And there are other hazards for the older single mother, as 62-year-old Kathleen Steele, of St Petersburg, Florida, discovered this week. In 2009 she appeared on a reality TV show, “I’m Pregnant and 55 Years Old”. She gave birth to a son. After her husband died of cancer in 2011, she used his sperm to have more two babies, a 3-year-old and an infant daughter, whom she was raising by herself.
This week she slipped into a shop to get her cell phone repaired and left her three children in the car. The 13-day-old baby began crying and in order to stop the noise the 6-year-old beat his sister to death. The car’s ceiling was covered with blood.
Ms Steele is jail and will face charges of aggravated manslaughter. Her two children are in foster care.
It turns out that the self-confident woman who was pregnant at 55 must have been pushed to the breaking point by caring for her children. The kids were running amok; the oldest boy was aggressive; she had filed for bankruptcy and lost her home; she was being investigated by child protection authorities.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gulatieri told media that he was horrified by the death and by the casual attitude of the doctor who agreed to artificially inseminate Ms Steele. He said that it was troubling “that some supposed medical professional agrees to impregnate a 62-year-old woman with her dead husband’s sperm – and she gives birth to a baby that, by all accounts, she’s unable to adequately care for. Steele made statements in the last couple days that she was not finished, and apparently there’s more frozen sperm and she wants to have another baby boy. Something is seriously messed up with that.”
There’s a kind of wisdom in the fact that a woman’s reproductive capacity tapers off at about 40. Raising children is hard enough for a young woman; for a woman in her 60s, it’s all but impossible. It was reckless of Ms Steele to take on responsibilities which she couldn’t possible fulfil. It was criminally irresponsible for her doctors to cooperate in her plans for a fatherless family at her advanced age. As usual in the sexual revolution, children are the victims.
Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet and also of BioEdge, where this article first appeared.